House of Representatives District 72: Candidate Q&A
Candidates for this office were offered a questionnaire on education issues by The Parents’ Campaign. See below for responses received to date.
Debra Gibbs (Incumbent)» See Voting Record
1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? My husband and I attended public schools as well as our children who are now young adults. My siblings and their children attended and currently my nieces and nephews attend public schools. As a hands on parent, I served in the PTA as a member and as a former president. I also served on the schools Site Council. I was afforded the opportunity to serve on district task force committees as well. Currently, as a legislator, I am engaged with educational associations and parents to introduce bills which would increase academic excellence.
2. Do you agree that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) should be fully funded every year? If yes, what actions will you take to ensure full funding? If no, explain why. I support fully funding MAEP and I would review any other funding mechanism which would at the very minimum have our teacher’s salaries in line with the Southeastern average. I have introduced bills this past legislative session which would meet this goal. We must ensure, however, all teachers would be treated with respect in terms of a formula which would not be biased.
Tax cuts and tax credits have grown faster than the state’s struggling revenue. These cuts negatively impact the amount of money available to invest in public education which is vital to a growing and robust economy. A reduction in corporate taxes would also dramatically reduce funding for public schools.
3. What will you do to ensure state revenue that is sufficient to provide all of the services Mississippi’s citizens need to lead productive lives? I would work legislatively to support educational opportunities, economic development, work force development, and the expansion of quality jobs.
4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? Currently, public school children are not receiving an adequate education because the MAEP formula has been fully funded only twice. This being the case, fully funding MAEP should be the first priority.
5. Do you agree that all K-12 schools that receive taxpayer dollars, including private voucher schools, should be accountable to taxpayers for the quality of education they provide, using the same accountability measures as public schools? Yes. All educational entities should abide by the same rules, regulations and standards to ensure all children receive a quality education.
6. Public schools serve the vast majority of Mississippi students with disabilities. Do you agree that special education services in public schools should be fully funded every year? (Special education has been underfunded by the state every year since 2008.) If yes, how will you accomplish full funding? If no, explain why. I fully support public school children. The funding mechanism for children with disabilities should be the same as funding for any child in the State.
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes. I am a strong advocate for our children who deserve a quality education second to none. Early childhood education should be a priority for the State of Mississippi.
8. The nation’s top teachers say that the greatest barriers to school success for K-12 students are family stress, poverty, and learning and psychological problems. What steps do you believe legislators should take to alleviate these obstacles for Mississippi children? State agencies, and organizations who are equipped to address these barriers should be adequately funded to address these concerns.
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? I have consistently supported education at the highest level. My voting record indicates my commitment to public education in the State of Mississippi. Funding for public education and teacher pay raises is a priority. I have introduced bills for this purpose and have worked with educational associations for this aim. I introduced HB 811 to increase teachers’ salaries. I will continue to influence and work with the leadership to increase funding for this purpose.
10. Do you agree that retired educators (and other retired state employees) should be able to draw their retirement while serving in the Legislature? If it is not a detriment to the retirement system (PERS) and it doesn’t negatively impact the State budget, this policy should be equitably administered to also include sitting legislators.
11. Legislators have little or no staff to help them understand the many bills they must consider. Before introducing or supporting a bill that could affect public education, will you commit to seeking input from teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents of public school students in your district? Who will be advising you on education policies? I have consulted with educators in my district as well as with family and friends who are educators on education bills. I also seek knowledge from educational advocates such as: Parents’ Campaign, Mississippi Public Education, Mississippi Association of Educators, etc. It has been my practice also to seek input by way of community engagements.
12. Legislators receive tremendous pressure from the leaders of their chamber (House or Senate), state and party leaders, and corporate lobbyists, to vote in ways that may contradict the will of their constituents and harm their communities. How will you respond to this pressure? My position has been to consider my constituents’ legislative priorities in District 72 through community engagement.